The Savannah River Site's new biomass facility is expected to save energy, help the environment and create jobs. (WRDW-TV / March 13, 2012)
News 12 at 11 o'clock / Monday, March 12, 2012
AIKEN, S.C. -- Pointing almost vertically, a semi-truck dumps a load of wood chips into a blue hopper. After being mixed with some shredded tires and completing a journey on a series of conveyer belts, it's on to the boiler where the material, biomass, is burned and condensed into high-pressure steam, which then powers a loud turbine creating electricity.
"It's a great achievement," said George Sakellaris, the CEO of Ameresco.
The reality of having the Department of Energy's largest biomass facility came true for Savannah River Site on Monday with the clip of of a large pair of symbolic green scissors.
"This is a huge investment. It's positive for the region, South Carolina and Georgia," said Congressman Joe Wilson, R-SC, who helped cut the ribbon to the environmentally-friendly facility.
Ameresco estimates that because of the plant, 1.4 million gallons of water won't be drawn from the Savannah River annually and 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide won't be polluting our atmosphere each year. That's like removing 9,000 cars from the road.
All the while, enough electricity will be produced to power a large chunk of Savannah River Site.
"Clean energy is clean energy. In this case, it's from biomass," said Dr. David Moody, the Department of Energy manager for the site.
But Moody won't have to put down for this project in his budget. That's because it's been designed and built under contract with company Ameresco.
"So there's no federal dollars involved, other than what it would cost us for the power on an annual basis," Moody said.
Sakellaris said the DOE will save more than $34 million a year in energy costs, which will help this project pay for itself. In addition, after the 20-year contract ends, then DOE will scoop up all the additional savings.
"We can reinvest those dollars into other missions on the plant site, so we greatly look forward to that," Moody said.
"So I think it's kind of win-win-win-win-win," exclaimed Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino.
D'agostino said the cogeneration facility is important for a site with different missions in this new century.
"What we want are new facilities like this one here ... to show, both in a real way and symbolically, that we're here to stay at Savannah River Site," he said.
The electricity produced will actually help power the NNSA's MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility at Savannah River Site. That project is another huge endeavor and D'agostino says construction on it is about 90 percent done.
As for the biomass facility, the government will not start paying Ameresco until the energy savings are realized.
The project is also expected to create around 800 construction jobs and 25 permanent jobs on site.